Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Blogger Inquest - Michelle (Galleysmith)

For someone who only started the YA book blogging biz in May of last year, Michelle aka Galleysmith has made a huge impact in the YA bloggerdom. Within months she was shortlisted for Best New Blog at the 2009 BBAW awards ... colour me impressed.

Michelle is someone I've only just got to know better as she's been instrumental in helping me find my way through hundreds of votes for my Top 100 YA poll (she's a computer savant) and she LOVES True Blood. Boy, I am glad to have come into her sphere. She's amazingly supportive and generous with her time, she exemplifies the positives of this fantastic community of ours.

The purpose of the Blogger Inquest is to delve into a specific blogger's mind and experiences online. To be up front, I presented each of the interview subjects with 21 questions to choose from and they took it from there. This is a month long series of interviews on Persnickety Snark and I've got a whole host of bloggers (new and old) lined up. Next up are the lovely ladies from Forever Young Adult.

How has your approach and attitude (specifically reviewing) altered from the early stages of your blog?
When I first started blogging I was a lot more carefree about it. I just read and reviewed and occasionally wrote a post about a topic that interested me or caught my eye from something else. Now I feel like I take it far more seriously, it's a profession in a way. I pay attention to my behavior more, I try to be more organized, I attend industry events and "market" my blog. I still love it (maybe even more than I did when I started), but I'd be lying if I didn't feel the tone of my participation has changed somewhat. There is definitely a level of pressure to keep things flowing more regularly and to provide content that may distinguish me from others.

Blogging can be unbelievably supporting and sometimes catty environment – what three guidelines do you find to be good rules to live by in the blogging world?
Drama? Are you talking about blog drama? LOL

To try and distance myself from those scenarios I do the following:

1. Step away from the computer - If I see something that gets me riled I step away from the computer and come back later. The rule of ten works really well in this way, I count to ten and if I'm still upset I count again until I feel like I can be more reasonable. We all tend to get caught up in the heat of the moment and start saying things that we may regret later so if I can just keep from doing that I'm way better off.

2. Be proactive instead of reactive - I don't hold back my opinions and I'm honest but I do attempt to be so in a constructive way. I try to look at a situation from both sides, make sure I have all the facts, and don't jump to conclusions. I think a lot of misunderstandings, miscommunications and drama arise from being too quick to get involved and give a opinion.

3. Show some respect - I can't count the number of times I've seen a twitter lynch mob call out the cavalry to pounce on a post and spew venom. It's shocking to see that kind of behavior. Even more regrettable to be part of it. I think of the old adage, do unto others what you would like to have done unto you is perfect to live by in social media and blogging. Sure, some are prone to questionable behavior, that doesn't mean I have to be, nor does it mean I have to publicly involve myself in a high-drama situation to get my name out there or bump up my stats.

Characterise yourself as a blog reader – monogamous, flirty or promiscous? Lurker or commenter?
I'm a total blog ho! I love me some blogs. I think I subscribe to at least 300 in my feed reader. I try to be visible and comment but the fact of the matter is that between work, maintaining my own blog, life in general and many other reasons I pick and choose what I respond to. I do a lot of lurking when all is said and done. But know, I'm out there supporting bloggers by adding to their stats and subscriber numbers.

What word is most overused on your blog?
UGH, there are so many. How can I choose just one? Hmmm, I'd say fabulous is pretty high ranking. I think I use y'all quite a bit too. Oh, seriously….that's another one. I seriously use it a lot.

What recent review convinced you to buy a book?
It wasn't a review per se as much as a book discussion. Liz from A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy was talking to a few of us about Jane by April Linder at dinner during ALA's annual conference. I trust Liz's opinions implicitly and when she said she enjoyed it I automatically put it on my "must have" list.

How has attending conferences (BEA, ALA, etc) affected your blog?
Participating in BEA, BBC and ALA this year afforded me the opportunity to network with authors, publishers and fellow bloggers in a different way. While it's not necessary to be a good/productive/involved blogger I do think it's one way to be able to increase visibility, which, if you are interested in doing, is invaluable.

Outside of the fact that you will assuredly increase the size of your TBR pile, you'll (more importantly in my estimation) increase the size of your knowledge-base. These events are more about making connections -- about meeting the people you work with online in person, about learning more about the industry, about becoming a better blogger.

I won't even go into the fact that it's just plain fun!

Writing a book review (for a title you’d ideally like to marry if legally possible) is one of the tougher tasks for a book reviewer. What is your approach to writing an informed, glowing review?
I try to be as professional as possible but in the end if I love a book enough to
marry it how can I possibly mask the gushing? I do my best to get down to business but ultimately there will be an infusion of oooooh's and ahhhhh's throughout that expresses my passion for the work. I'll add, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to gush. If my love of a book translates into others picking it up why try mask it, right?

Despite the gushing, I always try to be unbiased and show the strengths and weakness of the plot/character/writing as I can. Even with the infusion of love, I focus on providing a well balanced review so potential readers can have realistic expectations about a book prior to purchase.

What are you most proud of achieving on your blog?
I'm proud that I've made the connections and built the audience I have in the short time that I've been blogging. I've worked diligently to try and create an environment of trust and honesty and believe that it has gone a long way in helping me draw in readers and keep them. Further, I believe it's allowed me to establish relationships with the publishing industry (authors, publisher, publicists) that benefit my readership.

There are fantastic discussion posts across YA. Which post made you wish you had written it?
Gah, this one is a hard question! I've read so many thoughtful and thought provoking posts over the year how can I choose just one. Of course, there were a great many posts on the issue of whitewashing that were interesting to read. I also appreciated the fact that it seemed that these posts and the movement surrounding them went a long way in actually instilling actual change. I'll add, I enjoy the posts (and strive to one day be able to create them) that focus on the industry and issues within it as opposed to focussing on blogging and bloggers. The kinds of posts that aren't preachy or tell people what they SHOULD be doing to be a good member of the community.

I wish I had more of an ability to hone in and pull out the critical issues relative to YA literature. I think being able to be constructive and critical of issues through debate and discussion is what makes an industry learn and grow. I want to advocate and create conversation but not pressure. So ultimately, one of my goals for the remainder of 2010 and all of 2011 is to increase the amount of content on my blog that is issue focussed, to drive conversation and potentially change.

How long do foresee yourself blogging for?
For as long as I have readers who want to hear what I have to say. Ultimately time will tell, but I hope that I can make my blog the type of resource that people want to use for work and play.

Publishers do a great deal for the YA community but what could they be doing to increase the effectiveness of the blogger/publisher relationship?
It's difficult for me to really say given the fact that I don't have any true publishing experience. I will say, however, that in a recent conversation with a couple of authors about blogging they spoke to how bloggers in France are treated with a level of professional respect and courtesy that they'd not seen before. That they viewed bloggers outside of the US being treated as part of the mainstream press and that they didn't quite understand why it wasn't the same here. It was interesting to hear about that different treatment and certainly makes me think of how YA bloggers can move towards that end here.

I think it's important to add that the onus isn't all on the publisher to increase the effectiveness of relationships. As bloggers we should be doing our best to work towards that end as well. It's a group effort that kind of, in my opinion, is very much a chicken and egg scenario. Do bloggers earn improved treatment from publishers or do publishers give it outright and bloggers maintain it? It's such a work in progress that hopefully will continue to flourish and increase in benefit for both.

What is something that makes you immediately groan when looking at another’s blog?
Oh man, I'm not stepping into that one, haha.

Blogger envy – do you get it and what over?
Hell yea I get it! Every.single.day.

Most of my envy is over content and relationships. There are so many great bloggers out there that speak so well for YA literature, they are issues driven and have incredible focus on the industry and it's direction. These same bloggers (and many others) also maintain incredible relationships within the industry be it with corporate contacts or with authors. These are two areas I hope to be able to improve on my blog over the course of the next year or so.

You can find Michelle at the following places:


Emily said...

I think that bloggers like Michelle get far because they are so nice and helpful. I've noticed that many of the bloggers that make me cringe are the ones that publicly call out other bloggers and just can't let things go.

littlegirlwithabigpen said...

Wow, what an awesome interview series idea! I'll be back for more.
She sounds fantastic.

Michelle said...

Adele, thank you so much for including me on this wonderful series. It's such a pleasure to chat around with you :)